MADISON, NJ - The Conroy family of Madison will present the second annual Laugh Out Loud comedy fundraiser to benefit Autism Speaks this Friday at 7 p.m. at Madison Volunteer Ambulance Corps.

The Conroys' son was diagnosed with autism at age 3.  “When Jackson was diagnosed, it changed our lives. You immediately begin altering all your images of your life, and your child’s. You struggle and you persevere, all the while, hoping you are teaching your child the lessons they need to learn in this life. Which is rough for most parents,” said Jaime Conroy.

After a few years, they decided they wanted to get involved and try to make a difference for those affected by autism the way that they had been.

So, three years ago Jaime Conroy joined the Greater Morris Area Walk Now for Autism Speaks. It was the inaugural year for the Morris County walk and it provided a great opportunity not only to be a part of a great organization, but to find other people in the area who lived through the same situations and circumstances that they did.

Autism Speaks was founded in February 2005 by Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a child with autism. Their longtime friend Bernie Marcus donated $25 million to help financially launch the organization. Since then, Autism Speaks has grown into the world's leading autism science and advocacy organization, dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism; increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders; and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. We are proud of what we've been able to accomplish and look forward to continued successes in the years ahead.

“Getting involved with Autism Speaks changed how our family functioned. We became part of something bigger and were able to make a difference in the lives of others, all while understanding our own a little better,” Jaime said.

That first year, the Conroys raised more than $5,000 for their walk team, The J Team, named after their son, Jackson. Then last year, the Conroys started brainstorming interesting ways to fundraise. That is how Laugh Out Loud came to be. With the help and generosity of friends in the entertainment business, they were able to secure a lineup of people willing to donate their time and talents to the cause.

“We had no idea what to expect with the show last year. We knew we could only fit 100 people in the venue we chose, so we aimed low. We did very little advertising and mostly relied on word of mouth,” Jaime said. They sold out at 105 tickets. “We knew we needed to go bigger this year.”  This enabled The J Team to raise more than $7,500 last year for Autism Speaks.

The band Kings Road joined the cause earlier this year by putting together a fundraiser at Rocco’s.

“Laugh Out Loud has become our singular event so it was imperative to us that we keep Laugh Out Loud a MADISON event. We felt we needed to give back to all of our local friends who had donated in the past. We wanted to give them a great show, and make it as easy as possible for them to continue to support us. Without their support, we would never be able to raise as much money, support and awareness as we have in the last three years. We are extremely grateful.”

The show features the personal friends, who happen to be professional comedians. Jim Conroy will be hosting the event, with Karen Krents, known for her monthly Madison Comedy Hour opening the show. Next up is Eric Kirchberger who has been seen on Comedy Central and in clubs throughout New York. Headlining the show is Tom Shillue. Tom has been touring with Jim Gaffigan, and can be seen regularly on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. His “l2 Comedy Albums in 12 Months” project awarded him the title of one of the Best Comedy Projects 2013 by TimeOut NY.

Local comedian and Madison mom Karen Krents added, “When Jaime came up with the idea for this event last year I knew right away that it was something I wanted to be involved with."

“We are extremely fortunate to know such incredibly talented and kind people who are willing to donate their talents and time to help us out.”, Jim Conroy explains.

Laugh Out Loud will take place at 29 Prospect St. in Madison. Tickets are $50, which includes cocktails, wine, beer, light appetizers, and the show. Main Street Wine Cellars has donated a martini bar for the event. Tickets can be purchased in advance by visiting the website www.myspecialboy.com, and clicking on the PayPal link, or by emailing jbconroy@me.com.